Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cute Cat - A Chinese Inkstone

This unusual cat shaped ink stone was donated in 1993 by a Mrs Mae-Fun Chen, who was moving from Knaresborough to the seaside in Essex. Her father was an art collector, who had a shop called the 'Chinese Art Gallery' and when he died in 1967 she selected this ink stone, amongst a few other items, to keep. It is currently on show in the China Cabinet display at the far end of the Servant's Quarters at Lotherton Hall.  

On the back of the inkstone is an inscription which has now been translated by Estelle Wu     (吳瑞珍), as part of her internship with Leeds Museums and Galleries this year. (Where X is written this means the character was hard to decipher). The colour on this photo has been altered to maximise the legibility of the characters.

When it nods its head with comfort
The head is like a tiger and in sunny day is like a cat
And its eyes are like a mynah
They move quickly and have meat as their meals
Thirty thousand and fifty catalogues about Confucianism
It is wide and changeable, imprisons some mouse
Helping someone behind the scene
God asks us to have leisureful lives
Zha-Shan (a mountain in Huian County, Fujian province, China) inscribed

Searching for this mountain in combination with the word inkstone on the web brought up the name Huang Kehui 黄克晦 (1524-1590), a poet, painter and calligrapher in the Ming Dynasty. This poem is very similar,  in the first and second lines, with one by the poet Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521-1593), who lived around the same time. So presumably Huang took some part of Xu’s work to make a new poem of his own.

Below is Xu’s work:
Name: 徐渭 Xu Wei
Topic: 端石螭硯銘 The inscription on an ink stone with a dragon

When dragon nods its head it looks like tiger
And the eyes of dragon are like mynah
It flies and moves fast, it has meat as its meal, it has ink as its drinks, can you hear its sound?

Do get in touch if you have seen another cat inkstone as cute as this one!

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